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World Fuel Services Trading, DMCC v. M/V Hebei Shijiazhuang

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

April 4, 2014

WORLD FUEL SERVICES TRADING, DMCC, D/B/A BUNKERFUELS, Plaintiff,
v.
M/V HEBEI SHIJIAZHUANG, HER ENGINES, TACKLE, EQUIPMENT, APPURTENANCES, ETC., IN REM, Defendant,
v.
HEBEI PRINCE SHIPPING COMPANY, LTD, Claimant

Decided, April 3, 2014

Page 793

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 794

For World Fuel Services Trading, DMCC, doing business as Bunkerfuels, Plaintiff: Dustin Mitchell Paul, Mark T. Coberly, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Vandeventer Black LLP, Norfolk, VA.

For M/V HEBEI SHIJIAZHUANG, her engines, tackle, equipment, appurtenances, etc., in rem, Defendant: James L. Chapman, IV, LEAD ATTORNEY, Steven Michael Stancliff, Crenshaw Ware & Martin PLC, Norfolk, VA.

For HEIBEI PRINCE SHIPPING COMPANY, LTD., Claimant: James L. Chapman, IV, LEAD ATTORNEY, Steven Michael Stancliff, Crenshaw Ware & Martin PLC, Norfolk, VA.

For T. Parker Host, Inc., Claimant: Barry Jason Barlow, John Early Holloway, Troutman Sanders LLP, Norfolk, VA.

OPINION

Page 795

Mark S. Davis, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed bye plaintiff World Fuel Services Trading, DMCC (" Plaintiff" or " WFS DMCC" ), a cross-motion for summary judgment filed by claimant Hebei Prince Shipping Company, Ltd. (" Claimant" or " Prince" ), and a motion by Claimant seeking additional discovery pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). The Court conducted a hearing on the summary judgment motions on March 27, 2014. For the reasons discussed below, Claimant's Rule 56(d) motion is DISMISSED AS MOOT, Claimant's cross-motion for summary judgment is DENIED, and Plaintiff's motion seeking summary judgment is GRANTED.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. The Fuel Bunker Transaction

Tramp Maritime Enterprises Ltd. (" Tramp" ), located in Greece, chartered the M/V HEBEI SHIJIAZHUANG (" the vessel" ), registered in Hong Kong, from Claimant, located in China, for three consecutive time charters between May 23, 2012 and November 8, 2012. Bunkerfuels Hellas, located in Athens, Greece, provides marketing and promotion services to Greek vessel operators and owners on behalf of Plaintiff, a bunker fuel provider located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Heijmen Decl. ¶ ¶ 4, 5, 9, ECF No. 48-2. On October 22, 2012, Tramp sent an email to Aristides P. Vogas (" Vogas" ), an employee of Bunkerfuels Hellas, for the purpose of obtaining a price quotation for fuel bunkers to be delivered to the vessel on or about October 27, 2012 at the port of Khor Fakkan, United Arab Emirates. Claimant's Ex. 8, ECF No. 39-8. Later that same day, Vogas sent an email to Tramp,

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confirming the order (" the bunker confirmation" ). ECF No. 1-3. The bunker confirmation listed the " buyer" as " MV HEBEI SHIJIAZHUANG and her owners/operators and Tramp Maritime Enterprises Ltd," and the " seller" as " BUNKERFUELS A DBA/DIVISION of WFS Trading DMCC." Id. at 1. The bunker confirmation indicated that the " physical supplier" of the fuel would be APSCO Jeddah (" APSCO" ), that the payment terms would be " 30 DDD by TTT." Id. Below the details of the transaction was the following language:

All sales are on the credit of the vsl. Buyer is presumed to have authority to bind the vsl with a maritime lien. Disclaimer stamps placed by vsl on the bunker receipt will have no effect and do not waive the seller's lien. This confirmation is governed by and incorporates by reference seller's general terms and conditions in effect as of the date that this confirmation is issued. These incorporated and referenced terms can be found at www.wfscorp.com. Alternatively, you may inform us if you require a copy and same will be provided to you.

Id.

The website located at www.wfscorp.com is the website for World Fuel Services Corporation (" WFS Corp." ), the United States parent corporation of WFS DMCC. A document titled " The World Fuel Services Corporation Marine Group of Companies General Terms and Conditions" is located on the " Marine Solutions" sub-page of WFS Corp.'s website, and can be accessed by clicking the " Marine" menu item at the top of the web page located at www.wfscorp.com and then clicking the " Marine Terms & Conditions" link at the bottom of the web page. The first paragraph of the document states, " the following terms of sale and supply shall constitute the General Terms and Conditions ('General Terms') of the World Fuel Services Corporation Marine Group of companies (collectively, 'World Fuel Services')." ECF No. 30-4 at 1. The document identifies a list of twelve companies comprising the " Marine Group of companies," " which includes, but is not limited to, World Fuel Services, Inc.; World Fuel Services Europe, Ltd.; World Fuel Services (Singapore) Pte. Ltd.; [nine other companies] and their respective trade names, subsidiaries, affiliates and branch offices." Id. The document further provides that the " list includes all subsidiaries of World Fuel Services Corporation who have sold, are selling or will sell petroleum products and services, whether or not in existence on the effective date." Id.

The " Credit and Security" section of the General Terms provides, in pertinent part:

Products supplied in each Transaction are sold and effected on the credit of the Receiving Vessel, as well as on the promise of the Buyer to pay, and it is agreed and the Buyer warrants that the Seller will have and may assert a maritime lien against the Receiving Vessel for the amount due for the Products delivered. . . . Disclaimer of lien stamps placed on a Bunker Delivery Receipt shall have no effect towards the waiver of such lien.
. . . .
All sales made under these terms and conditions are made to the registered owner of the vessel, in addition to any other parties that may be listed as Buyer in the confirmation. Any bunkers ordered by an agent, management company, charterer, broker or any other party are ordered on behalf of the registered owner and the registered owner is liable as a principal for payment of the bunker invoice.

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Id. at 6. The document concludes with a " Law and Jurisdiction" paragraph, which provides:

The General Terms and each Transaction shall be governed by the General Maritime Law of the United States and, in the event that the General Maritime Law of the United States is silent on the disputed issue, the law of the State of Florida, without reference to any conflict of laws rules which may result in the application of the laws of another jurisdiction. The General Maritime Law of the United States shall apply with respect to the existence of a maritime lien, regardless of the country in which Seller takes legal action. . . . Seller shall be entitled to assert its rights of lien or attachment or other rights, whether in law, in equity or otherwise, in any country where it finds the vessel.

Id. at 12.

On October 29, 2012, APSCO delivered the bunkers at issue to the vessel in the port of Khor Fakkan and provided the vessel's chief engineer with two " Bunker Delivery Note[s]" reflecting the amount of fuel delivered to the vessel. See ECF Nos. 1-1 and 1-2. The chief engineer signed each Bunker Delivery Note and stamped them with the following " no lien" language: " Bunkering Services and the bunkers are ordered solely for the account of Charterers and not for Owners. Accordingly no lien or other claims whatsoever against the Vessel or her owners can arise." Id.

B. The Vessel's Arrest

On April 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Verified Complaint with this Court, alleging that, " [d]espite repeated demands for payments for the amounts due for the fuel oil and marine gas oil provided, Tramp . . . and the [vessel] have failed to pay and refused to pay the amounts due." Compl. ¶ 15, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff asserted that, because Tramp and the vessel owed Plaintiff " the sum of $809,420.50," Plaintiff had " a maritime lien on the [vessel] for the unpaid balance due of $809,420.50 for necessaries provided to the vessel, pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § § 31341 and 31342. Id. ¶ ¶ 19, 20. Along with the Verified Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Issuance of Warrant of Maritime Arrest, pursuant to Supplemental Admiralty Rule C, for arrest of the vessel, which was expected to arrive in the Eastern District of Virginia within the next fourteen days. ECF No. 3. After reviewing the Verified Complaint and accompanying documents, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion and issued an Order for Issuance of Warrant of Maritime Arrest. ECF No. 4. The vessel was arrested on or about April 8, ...


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